In late April 2012, jurors in San Luis Obispo, California (CA), ordered a doctor to pay a family $74 million in compensatory and punitive damages after finding that negligence by the physician during their daughter's delivery created a situation that allowed the child to develop cerebral palsy. The medical malpractice lawyer for the family, Nicholas Rowley, presented evidence that the doctor ignored danger signs that oxygen was not reaching the baby's brain while the mother was in labor and that the resulting hypoxia caused brain injuries that left the child permanently disabled.
The girl is now 3 years old and confined to a wheelchair. She will require around-the-clock medical and personal care for the rest of her life. According to the Tribune, the jury forewoman justified the multimillion malpractice award as necessary to provide for that lifetime of care. “Damage to this little girl happened, and the evidence showed us that, more likely than not, the doctor was negligent,” she said. “Nobody wants to make someone pay for no reason. This was a life-changing event.”
Virginia Birth Injury Attorneys' Perspective
As a Virginia (VA) medical negligence attorney with a law firm that has helped many families recover from birth injuries, I am glad that the jury held the doctor accountable. Any time a mistake or misdiagnosis is made during delivery, the consequences can be devastating for the child and the parents. Ensuring that financial resources are available to give the child the best life possible takes a great weight off the family. Dealing with the aftermath of the birth injury will continue to be a struggle, but at least the parents know they won't have crushing financial concerns.
Legislators in Virginia and North Carolina (NC) have placed caps on medical malpractice award amounts, and those caps apply regardless of what a jury decides is fair and just compensation. In 2011, Virginia tweaked its law to allow medical caps increase annually along with inflation rates, and North Carolina adopted its first-ever cap.
Many victims' attorneys, myself included, feel the caps are unconstitutional. Several state supreme courts have issued rulings confirming this position. Until and unless the highest courts in Virginia and North Carolina strike down the caps down, however, unfair and arbitrary damage limits for medical malpractice victims remain in place.
Potentially Helpful Info
My colleagues and I publish a free guide for victims of medical malpractice that offers preliminary advice about what to do if you or a family member is harmed by the negligence of a doctor, nurse or other health care provider. You should also consult with one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys.
Have Questions? Check Out Our Firm’s FAQs.
We also offer an extensive list of attorneys' answers to frequently asked questions about medical malpractice.